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Early Signing Day: Everything Coach Kiffin had to say at Wednesday’s press conference

Early Signing Day: Everything Coach Kiffin had to say at Wednesday’s press conference

OXFORD, Miss. — Ole Miss head coach Lane Kiffin met with the media Wednesday to give a recap the first half of the 2020 recruiting cycle. Here’s what Coach Kiffin had to say:

Opening Statement…
“This early signing period to me is kind of like halftime. It’s kind of strange, last time being at this level as a head coach, we didn’t have this. Then we didn’t sign as many guys at FAU at mid-year as they do up here. We were kind of waiting for guys to trickle down. It’s kind of like halftime here. It’s strange having a press conference instead of the end of the game at halftime. We signed some good players today that we’re excited about. We’ve only been here a week. Just like our staff, we said we were going to work fast, but we’re also going to work smart. With that, there is still a number of kids that we’re on, some that have already said they’re coming that want to develop relationships so they’re going to push back to February and some other kids that we’re on that maybe were going places that have pushed back to February to give us a chance. We only had one weekend, and some kids already had that weekend filled, so we weren’t able to get to everybody. When we start back up again here, we’d obviously like to have our staff in place and be at full strength then go finish out the second half. Just like you can’t win the game in the first or second quarter, you can’t win recruiting yet. We’ll have a lot of work to do. Talked to a lot of kids over the last two days about waiting and pushing back to February and finish really strong.”

“The guys we did sign today, it’s a little defense-heavy. When we came in, we didn’t know the roster great. We’ll always try to sign the best players regardless of position, but especially in our first year as we look at things. We have informed some guys who maybe had scholarships here before that we’re going in a different direction in fairness to them. I think that’s the best thing to do instead of keeping kids that were coming for the previous staff and they don’t fit and are wanting to transfer in a year or two.”

On Kade Renfro
“Kade is a really good player who has a big upside. At that position especially, just like all of them, we started from scratch and thought that he had a really big upside, someone who hasn’t played a ton of football and is still maturing from a growth standpoint, growing into his body. But he’s very competitive and has really good touch on the ball. I think he has a bright future.”

On Tobias Braun
“We’re kind of scrambling here one week to go, but this was somebody two coaches on our staff knew from before from Florida State and UCF. I had never talked to him, never met him, but he had a great weekend here. What I learned and what everyone says is that if you get the kids here, get them on campus here, even when school is out, they really enjoy it and you end up getting a lot of them. A lot of credit to the staff here that was in place, not just the coaching staff but around the building. They knew a lot more than we did for us few new guys. Those guys and girls really carried us through.”

On the coaching staff…
“I think we’ve got a ways to go. We still need to figure out defensive coordinator. Mike MacIntyre is definitely one of those candidates. When you figure out that, you can figure out the rest. I always try to hire the coordinators first then interview the other guys, whether it is outside guys or guys who are here. Any guys who are still on staff will have the first chance to interview, and we’ll go from there.”

On getting to know recruits in a short time period…
“They know them better than me. Most of these kids, especially in the south, they’ve visited here 10 times, been to a million games and junior days and all that stuff. They already knew about Ole Miss and a number of them wanted to come here. I didn’t really talk much about that. I talked more about what we’re planning on doing, whether it’s scheme or your position and how we coach that position or how we’ve coached it before and just kind of combine the two.”

On recruiting long-term without a full staff…
“Doing this a long time now, I probably would’ve handled it differently 10 years ago, worried about where our rankings were. We had a number of kids who we could have signed today that were wanting to commit here, and we told them either we weren’t going to take them or we said, ‘Hey, we have to get to know you first, so push back to February.’ Because we’re at halftime. The rankings today and all of that stuff doesn’t matter anyway. This will be a really big January, and I think you’ll end up seeing some guys sign here that aren’t even on the radar right now.”

On defensive line being a position of need…
“Yeah (defensive line) is for sure. There are some really good ones left out there. That will be a very big emphasis finishing the class off.”

On recruiting defensive linemen through the transfer portal…
“Sure. We’ll look at everything. College football now from a head coaching perspective is a lot more like the NFL, managing roster. It’s like in the NFL, you’ve got the draft, you have young free agents, old veteran free agents, your own guys, restricted free agents. Now college has become like that, because you’ve got high school kids, junior college kids, four-year transfer kids and grad transfer kids. You really have to manage the roster. There are all these great grad transfers out there, but you’re using an initial scholarship for one year. You’re putting a lot of money into a veteran who you only have for one year. You have to do a really good job of managing it. We’ll look at all aspects to improve our team.”

On how many people he expected to sign today…
“I didn’t have any numbers at all. It was really, hey, make sure we sign good players. If that’s two players, it’s two players. We weren’t going to reach. Once the staff is in place, I think a lot of kids will reach out to us and want to come here. Especially once we’re able to establish relationships with them. A lot of these kids came here because of what was already in place here, because of Ole Miss, not because of us. I think next time around, in February, it’ll be more of a combination.”

On if he expects any more additions in the early signing period…
“Yeah, I’d anticipate at least one more today.”

On Oxford HS product, Auburn signee JJ Pegues…
“He was at an all-star game, so we can’t go see him. We tried everything possible. I talked to his coach. They tried to put him on the phone and he said that he wasn’t interested and he had already made a decision. He was supposed to be up here the first morning we were here and didn’t show up. You can only do what the rules allow.”

On recruiting in-state vs. out-of-state…
“We’re going to sign the best players to win games. Now if it comes down to where they’re equal, we’re going to choose the in-state player. But we’re not going to sit here and say we’re going to sign all Mississippi kids. National programs that win for a long period of time, they recruit nationally. We’re going to recruit all over the place and find players. If it’s even, we’ll take local kids. This is much different than taking, like Tennessee and USC before, there was no mid-year signing. We had until February. At USC, even with the probation and the hearings coming up, I think we signed the No. 1 class in the country. Tennessee we signed a top-10 class, even though we were only there for a month or two. But this is a whole different animal. You have one week and one weekend, so it’s a lot more difficult.”

On positional needs in the late signing period…
“We’ll go to sign the best players, but we have to get defensive linemen. We have to continue to get defensive backs and get special players on offense, especially at receiver.”

On the coaches he has hired so far…
“Hiring the coordinators first, we were able to do that on offense, which allowed us to hire offensive coaches, have another one that will probably be announced here today. Just wanted to find guys who were good coaches who fit really well. Not worried about big resumes, ‘Oh we have to go hire all these big-name coaches,’ maybe like we did at Tennessee. Just hire the best teachers and the best guys who are going to develop players. Excited about the guys we have so far. We have a lot of work to do. It’s similar to our recruiting class.”

About The Author

Evelyn Van Pelt

Evelyn has covered sports for over two decades, beginning her journalism career as a sports writer for a newspaper in Austin, Texas. She attended Texas A&M and majored in English. Evelyn's love for Ole Miss began when her daughter Katie attended the university on a volleyball scholarship--and continued as she watched Katie receive three degrees from Ole Miss, culminating with her Pharm D. in 2012. Evelyn, a member of the FWAA, USBWA and the NCBWA, has covered Rebel sports for numerous outlets. In addition to working for The Rebel Walk, Evelyn is a sports writer for a newspaper in Texas.

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